Category Archives: Basketball

The Case for “LeBron to the Clippers” (No, Seriously.)

Don’t sleep on the new-look Clippers as a legitimate contender to sign the King this offseason. 

By Jake Sweltz

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It’s been widely reported that LeBron James’ son will be enrolling at Sierra Canyon High School just outside of Los Angeles.  Most verified basket-bloggers have taken this as evidence that LeBron plans to sign with the Lakers.  But I wouldn’t dismiss the other LA-based NBA franchise’s chances so easily.

Stop laughing.  That’s right, I’m talking about the friggin’ Clippers.  As a legitimate contender to sign LeBron this offseason.  To play basketball.  I said stop laughing.

To be clear, I fully acknowledge the inherent absurdity of a scenario in which LeBron actual James plays real NBA games in an official Clippers jersey.  But hear me out; there are a number of factors suggesting this scenario might be more than science fiction.

  1. PROPERTY RIGHTS: LeBron already owns two homes in LA.  If he signs with the Clippers, he can still make his move to Laker land without the pressure of living up to the Laker legacy held in place by the HOF’s who came before him.  LeBron is savvy, and he knows that losing to, say, the Kyrie-led Celtics in the Finals after becoming “the next great Laker” would ruin his reputation.
  2. GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE: The Jerry West factor is not to be taken lightly.  The Starters’ Trey Kerby mentioned that LeBron frequently brought up “basketball minds” during this latest playoff run.  The Logo is just the type of next-level basketball thinker LeBron could jibe with.  Plus, they already have a great relationship.
  3. EMPIRE STATE OF MIND: If LeBron wants to maintain a presence in the NBA after his basketball career is over as an owner or GM, he could eventually become the Magic Johnson of the Clippers.  And who knows?  He might even one day eclipse Johnson as a mogul.  Imagine, the once-pitiful Clippers, controlled by the most heinous racist owner in the league, now a proud contender in the West with the greatest player of his generation at the helm?  Sounds to me like a pretty sweet flip o’ the script.
  4. STAY FLEXIBLE: The Clippers have the 12th and 13th overall picks in this year’s draft, which they could theoretically package for an impact player or some other assets.  Their roster is composed of mutable entities like D’Andre Jordan and Tobias Harris, plus a ton of flotsam.  Can I interest you in a 2018-19 Clippers starting lineup that features LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Patrick Beverly?  And besides, wherever he signs, LeBron will most likely ink a short term contract, as he did in Cleveland.  That way, if the Clippers experiment doesn’t work out, he can always reset in 2020 with the Lakers or somewhere else for yet ANOTHER final act.  If history has taught us nothing else, it’s that LeBron James is virtually indestructible (“pretty much broken” hand aside).
  5. THE RAINMAKER: We all know LeBron is precious with his Narrative.  He knows if he can’t win more rings than MJ, he’ll have to tell a better story.  Bringing a title to this cursed Clipper franchise would cement his legacy as a franchise rainmaker, someone who could enter an NBA desert like the Cavs or the Clippers and turn them into a champion.
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Who Do We Blame for the KD Warriors?

Kevin-Durant-2

By Jake Sweltz

Kevin Durant joining GSW in 2016 was really good and cool for KD and the Warriors 😀

But it was really bad and not cool for most NBA fans 😦

By now, we all know where we stand on this issue, so let’s just move on to the million dollar question:

Who can we blame for all this?

Lots of people, it turns out!  Browsing the NBA blog-o-sphere in the weeks after KD and the Warriors won it all last year, I saw a surprising array of names floated as the Real Culprit.  Now that GSW are on the verge of going back-to-back, I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the guiltiest and/or most interesting candidates.  Let’s explore them one by one:

KD JOINING THE WARRIORS…WHOSE FAULT WAS IT?!

  1. KD? (for joining the Warriors) I think he definitely deserves some of the blame here.  But it would be boring and inaccurate to lay it all at his size 18 feet.  What about…
  2. The Warriors? (for losing the 2016 Finals and actively recruiting KD) Between Klay slaying OKC, Draymond getting suspended, and Steph freezing up, there were a lot of ways the Warriors could have ended their 2016 season in a way that didn’t facilitate KD jumping ship to join them.  But ultimately, you can’t place a ton of blame on a team for signing an all-time great when they got the chance.  As usual, the most compelling narrative always comes back to…
  3. LeBron? (for setting a “Super Team” precedent w/ the Decision) The weirdest take I’ve seen catch on is that LeBron’s 2010 Decision was somehow equivalent or worse than KD’s turncoat act.  Sure, the Decision was an obnoxious, ill-advised publicity stunt.  But from a basketball perspective, LeBron still left some semblance of the NBA’s competitive balance intact.  KD stone cold murdered that shit.  Besides, blaming stuff on LeBron stopped being cool in 2014.  In 2018, it’s much cooler to blame stuff on…
  4. Russell Westbrook? (for hogging the ball so much in OKC that KD could no longer abide being his teammate) Durant more or less admitted to this when his burner accounts were outed last year.  If Westbrook passed the ball even 20% more often, maybe the Thunder would have won multiple titles.  But then he wouldn’t be Russ, and for NBA fans, that’s a worse fate.  Let’s move on to my personal favorite object of Arbitrary Internet Blame…
  5. Michelle Roberts? (for defeating the proposed cap smoothing that would have prevented GSW from being able to pay KD) Now you’re talking my language.  Nothing is more satisfyingly mind-numbing than when the Blame Game turns into THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT.  Let’s dig a little deeper down that rabbit hole…
  6. Adam Silver? (for not swooping in like Dikembe and blocking the shit out of the KD trade the second he caught wind of it) Where’s David Stern when you need him?  A few months after his promotion to commissioner, we were all singing Silver’s praises, but is it possible the NBA paved paradise and put up a parking lot?  Surely, he’s more blameworthy than…
  7. Sam Presti? (for trading James Harden and unwittingly killing in the crib a potential Super Team that could have preempted GSW)  The only person I saw make this argument was Bill Simmons, who also claims the Harden Trade swung the terms of the Iran Nuclear Deal, the ’07 Writers’ Strike, and the O.J. Simpson trial.  Personally, I’d go back even further and blame…
  8. George Mikan? (for allowing the ABA to introduce the three point line in 1967) Obviously it will never happen, but I think the NBA should abandon the three point arc.  Now that the power of the three ball has been discovered and exploited, the style of play has become homogenous.  If every shot were worth two points again, it would promote a diversity of styles.  A team like GSW that shoots a high percentage from distance could still stretch the floor, but big man bully ball would also have a place in the league.  In the long term, that equals more fun for fans AND more employment opportunities for traditional big men.  Just a thought.  In the meantime, we haven’t yet mentioned…
  9. LaVar Ball? (he’s bad for the game, guys.  HE MUST BE STOPPED) Last year, when I wrote the first draft for this piece, LaVar was in the news like every week.  This year, he’s been mostly ignored as his start-up Junior Basketball Association struggles to generate ticket sales.  Is this his karmic punishment for secretly orchestrating the infamous meeting in the Hamptons between Durant and the Warriors that led to his signing with Golden State?!?  No, almost certainly not.  But what about…
  10. Donald Trump? (this would never have happened in Obama’s America) I dunno, it just feels like he should take some heat for this.  And while we’re at it, let’s throw some dirt on…
  11. James Naismith? (for inventing basketball, laying the groundwork for eventual domination by GSW) Hard to argue with that logic, right?  And finally, for your consideration as the One True Arbiter of the KD Warriors…
  12. Keyzer Soze? (“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”)  You can’t fool me, Soze.  I always knew you were behind this.

 

Some Questions Re: Championship DNA

By Jake Sweltz

During game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, Reggie Miller commented that Trevor Ariza was the only player on the Rockets with “Championship DNA.”  I have a few questions.

How is Championship DNA measured?

Are you born with Championship DNA?  Or do you acquire it by winning a championship?

Does everyone who wins a championship have Championship DNA?  Does Mario Chalmers have Championship DNA?

Is Championship DNA transferable?  That is to say, if you have Championship DNA, are teams that you play for in the future more likely to win a championship?  Or do championship-winning teams only consist of players who were born with Championship DNA?

Does every team that’s loaded top to bottom with Championship DNA win a championship?  What if two (or more) teams have the exact same amount of Championship DNA?

What if everyone on the roster has Championship DNA, except for one player?  Does his/her lack of Championship DNA prevent potential championship-winning teams from winning a championship?

Is Championship DNA permanent?  Is it possible to be dispossessed of Championship DNA, and if so, what sort of atrocious sin against the sport would it take for that to happen?

Does Phil Jackson still have Championship DNA?  What about Derek Jeter?

Is there somewhere I can buy Championship DNA online?  What conditions would be required for Championship DNA to be stored and shipped through the mail internationally?

Does Championship DNA have to be refrigerated?

A Well Respected Man: How Randy Wittman Got Fired and Still Won

Wittman

By Jake Sweltz

Once upon a time, Randy Wittman was an NBA punchline.  A year and a half ago, before he unleashed Paul Pierce at power forward and won a playoff series, Wittman had come to symbolize Washington’s stubborn commitment to goodness over greatness.  Man, that backcourt is something special, but they need a real coach! 

Fast forward to April 14, 2016.  The Wizards finally announce they’ve dismissed head coach Randy Wittman.  The move was expected for weeks; Beal’s been hurt, the team has looked disinterested, and in any case, management wants to hire Scotty Brooks in a feeble attempt to lure KD to D.C.  Everyone agrees Wittman is basically a scape goat for a lost season rather than a mediocre coach who probably should have been canned two years earlier.  In the meantime, Randy racked up enough wins to become (statistically) one of the “most successful coaches in Wizards history.”

I’d say that’s a pretty favorable development for the Wittman narrative.  And he deserves it!  Sure, he was never going to be Phil Jackson, but he established a coherent (if somewhat conservative) culture and style of play in Wizard world.  As Wall developed and Beal struggled with injuries, Wittman dutifully steered the ship.  He whipped the team into good enough shape for the media to start complaining that he wasn’t “elite” enough to lead them in the playoffs, and pretty soon he was popping up on Vine (which, unless you’re Jay Wright, is never a good look for a basketball coach).

Beating Toronto last year helped a bit, but the rap on Wittman had always been that he was out of his depth.  That’s probably as true today as it ever was, but this listless Wizards season has shifted the blame for Washington’s dysfunction way beyond Wittman.

Go figure that after his worst season in three years, Randy’s rep might actually be in better shape than ever.

R.I.P. Phoenix Suns (2013-2014) – Eulogizing the NBA’s Motliest Crew

By Jake Sweltz

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“It’s better to burn out than to fade away…”

It was Neil Young who wrote those words, and Kurt Cobain who infamously commandeered them, but neither figure could shred like the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns.

Alas, the Suns have finally set in the West.  Their playoff hopes were extinguished by the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center on Monday, as the team lost 97-91 in a game that saw 15 fourth quarter lead changes.  Phoenix went down early; the Grizzlies had a 13-point advantage with three minutes to go in the first half.  Then, just as they had all year long, the Suns scrapped back, and by the final quarter, the score was tied at 67.

Phoenix’s resistance was glorious, but ultimately futile.  Just as in its previous two games (each almost equally as crucial), they were narrowly out-dueled in the final minute, capping their epic season-ending trilogy of tragedy.

But let’s not dwell on the sad times.  We’re not here to mourn how the Suns died.  We’re here to celebrate how they lived.

Two weeks ago, there were three bubble teams clawing for the last two playoff seeds in the most loaded conference in years:

(1) The Memphis Grizzlies.  A team that won 56 games and made the Western Conference Finals just last year and that has made no major roster changes except adding a bench guy who can actually shoot (Mike Miller).  A team with an elite defense that features one of the league’s most skilled two-way big men in Marc Gasol.  Not to mention the indomitable Zach Randolph, somehow averaging a double-double from deep under the Earth’s crust.  A franchise widely recognized and respected as a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.

(2) The Dallas Mavericks.  A grizzled squad of battle-tested sharp shooters and savvy veterans.  Plus Monta Ellis, who actually posted great efficiency numbers and blossomed into a top two-guard.  A team with perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki still shooting the same percentages he did at 30, still climbing the all-time scoring ladder with the same frightening speed, and still sinking unguardable fadeaways in the grills of flummoxed forwards on a nightly basis.  A group helmed by long-time basketball guru and noted Carrey-lookalike Rick Carlisle.  A franchise with one of the strongest cultures in the NBA, a smart owner, and a history of success.

(3) The Phoenix Suns?  The team that traded its starting center a week before the season began?  The squad that lost its starting point guard and prize offseason acquisition for 40 games?  The franchise that hired a rookie coach and signed an arsenal of anonymous three-point bombing strangers?  The team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the days when Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire were more than just walking (painfully lurching?) contracts?  The team that Vegas projected to win 19 games and contend for nothing except the top draft pick?  Those Phoenix Suns?

If you asked any reasonable NBA fan before the season which of those three teams would get squeezed out, is there any doubt who they’d pick?  So sure, at the end of the day, the Suns did eventually set in the West.  Maybe that’s just nature taking its course, but honestly, what sounds natural about a roster consisting of the following characters:

Eric “the Bled-Show” Bledsoe

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The six foot ninja with speed like Sonic the Hedgehog and athleticism that has been compared to LeBron James.  Bledsoe turned heads last year as the backup point guard for the Clippers after Chris Paul went down, but there was widespread skepticism around the league that he could match the value of a real franchise player.  Over time, that might prove true, but as long as he keeps slicing up guards and blocking the shit out of 6’11” dudes, he’s worth every penny on highlight credit alone.

Goran “the Dragon” Dragic

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The skinny Slovenian with the ever-pubescent crustache and the on-court approach of a highly caffeinated coyote.  In a league chock full of talented point guards, Dragic has flown under the radar for several years, and now he’s getting national attention as an All-NBA candidate.  His always-effective, super-funky Euro slash and kick game reached a new level this season.  As Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry pointed out, Dragic is third in the league in creating corner three opportunities, behind only LeBron James and John Wall, two of the league’s biggest franchise cornerstones.  As ambiguous as the criteria for Most Improved Player is, it seems pretty obvious that Dragic should be a leading candidate to take home that hardware.

Miles “the Plum” Plumlee 

plumsThe overlooked big man who you don’t take seriously until you actually watch him play a couple games and realize he’s just busting his freaking ass out there.  He’s averaging eight points and eight boards, which is beyond good for guy who didn’t see a single significant minute off the bench in Indiana.  But in a way, stats are besides the point.  This piece of Luis Scola trade driftwood turned out solid as an oak tree, and that’s all his team needed.

Gerald “Lean, Mean” Green

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The buzzer-beating, gravity-defying, mean-mugging Super Mario of the NBA.  The player most likely to actually be an NBA Jam avatar magically wished to life.  A guy who bounced around in and out of the league for years, who was playing in Russia and seemed destined to wash out as an über athletic afterthought before finding a home in Phoenix.  He started out with the Celtics as a physical freak of nature who just couldn’t grasp the nuances of the pro game.  Over time, he honed his skills, but was still known mostly as a one-dimensional dunker until he started putting up scorching numbers for the Suns during Bledsoe’s injury.  He evens out as a reliable spark plug off the bench, but if you give him a lane, he’ll still swallow your soul.

The Morris Twins

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The butt of countless jokes before the season about symbolizing the arbitrary gimmickry of Phoenix’s roster, Marcus and Markieff both ended up having career years, with Markieff in the running for several NBA awards, including Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved.  (But, then again, you could make a case for virtually every player on this Suns squad for the latter.)

And that’s before even getting to guys like Channing Frye, PJ Tucker, and Ish Smith.  Seriously, right when you think this Phoenix team can’t get any more fun, you remember that they have dudes named Channing, PJ, and Ish.  Is it too late to add the Suns to my Coolest NBA Roll Call list?

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the man behind the clipboard, first-year coach and cheek-rubbing enthusiast Jeff Hornacek.  The man took a roster of young unknowns, low-radar journeymen, underwhelming role players, and no starting center, and he turned it into literally the winningest regular season team ever to miss the playoffs.  It’s often hard to parse how much influence a coach truly has on the success of his team, but in this case there can be no doubt.  Virtually every player on this roster ended up outperforming their career averages by some significant measure.  Hornacek is, to me, the most obvious and deserving choice for Coach of the Year, and despite the number of worthy candidates this season (S/O to Thibodeau, Carlisle, Popovich, and Stotts) I suspect he’ll win it.  After all, Phoenix was the feel-good story of the season all year long; absolutely everybody loved this Suns team: fans, media, players, everybody.

And that’s really the thing I’ll miss the most about this year’s squad.  The damn near universal adoration for this unlikely team of lovable misfits that succeeded despite the odds.  Which is what delineates these gratifying underdog stories, right?  The odds?  Because once a long shot beats the odds, they’re not a long shot anymore.  They lose the very essence of what made them special in the first place.

Next year, the Suns won’t be the league’s goofy Slumdog Millionaire, plundering victories from established contenders.  They’ll be one of those established contenders, and that means they’ll have to deal with all the not-so-fun baggage that being an emergent competitor entails.  “Can Eric Bledsoe make the next leap?”  “Will Hornacek get fired if they don’t make the playoffs?”  “You know, Miles Plumlee isn’t the long-term answer at center.”  “Does this team need to trade for another superstar?”  And so on.

There’s no doubt that after this season, the Phoenix Suns are in a better place.  And yet, I still can’t help but shed a tear for the loss of their childlike spirit.  Liberated from the burden of competitive expectations, the Suns were free to spread their wings and fly the way they wanted.  Because a team that’s not weighed down is a team that might soar highest.

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God bless the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns.

Shine on you crazy diamonds.

 

(all images courtesy of Google Search)

 

 

A Brief and Arbitrary Ode to Russell Westbrook

westbrookBy Jake Sweltz

The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing the Atlanta Hawks tonight.  It’s not a particularly noteworthy game, but I’m going to go ahead and use it as a paper-thin excuse to post this short bit of prose I wrote last season about Russell Westbrook, Destroyer of Worlds.  I’m also going to include an obligatory Westbrook finger gun GIF to top it off.  Enjoy.

Russell Westbrook plays basksetball like a roided-out jackrabbit.  He has the athletecism of a mini-LeBron, but he doesn’t bottle it up the way James does.  He lets it bubble and boil over the pot.

Westbrook plays an aggressive, volatile style, like Troy Polamalu in his prime.  In the frame one second and out the next (and vice versa).  He commits plays with a heedless energy that can’t be tamed.  And yet even his clumsiest maneuvers still somehow look graceful.  His basketball is Youthful Exuberance personified.  Flashy and frivolous, headstrong and beautiful.

 WestbrookGunsBack1

Never change, Russ.

Which NBA Roster Has the Coolest Roll Call?

kings-names

By Jake Sweltz

The 2013-14 NBA season isn’t even a month old yet, and already I have watched roughly three and half games involving the Sacramento Kings.  I know, I can’t explain it either.

Besides serving as a harsh reminder that I’m allergic to using my free time productively, all that sweet Sac-town action has also brought me to a shocking and highly important revelation: a lot of the Kings have cool names.  Like, by far the coolest collection of names in the NBA.

Of course, it’s debatable whether the guy with the single most interesting moniker plays for Sacto.  But for my money, the Kings as a whole have the best roll call in pro basketball, and it’s not really close.

When I first suspected this might be the case, I took it upon myself to launch a full investigative inquiry.  What follows is a list of the top squads around the league, strictly based on strength of roster names.  Each team gets a starting five, plus a sixth man in parentheses.

Again, the players’ actual talent level played no part in these power rankings; we’re talking strictly phonological/orthographical aesthetics here.  Alliteration, consonance/assonance, exotic spellings, all that good stuff, plus all the other intangibles that just make a name tickle your fancy.

Here are the final results:

1.) Sacramento Kings – Boogie Cousins, Travis Outlaw, Greivis Vasquez, Jimmer Fredette, Luc Mbah a Moute (Chuck Hayes)

Notes: Take heart, Kings fans.  Your players mostly suck, but their names are awesome.  I know that Cousins’ real first name is DeMarcus, but c’mon.  Every true hoops fan knows he’s Boogie.  Chuck Hayes is a sneaky-great rap name, and “loo-koom-bah-ah-moo-tay” is just a beautiful string of syllables no matter how you slice it.  Bonus points to the Kings for also having the coolest stadium name in the NBA (Sleep Train Arena).

2.) San Antonio Spurs – Manu Ginobli, Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter (Nando de Colo)

Notes: The Spurs have a reputation among casual fans for being a boring team, but their roster names are anything but.  “Tiago Splitter” has long flown under the radar as one of the more interesting and terrifying names in the league, and obviously I fully support the coolness credentials of the name “Boris,” especially when it belongs to a French black dude.  Kawhi and Ginobli sound as solid as ever, but the key that vaulted the Spurs to number two was their acquisition of Marco Belinelli and his spicy meatball of a moniker.

3.) New York Knickerbockers – Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert (Metta World Peace)

Notes: The Knicks have always been deep in the “cool name” department.  Bernard King, Dave DeBusschere, Latrell Sprewell, Walt Frazier…and those are just the guys who were actually good at basketball.  It seems like having a boss name just comes with the territory of playing in New York and having it plastered all over MSG.  Then again, that might explain why they decided to pay a completely useless Amar’e Stoudemire (and his epic name) a gajillion dollars every year for the next seventeen decades.

Anyway, this year’s Knicks field a strong squad as always.  Melo continues to be their franchise “cool name” cornerstone.  “Who Shot J.R.” Smith is a solid second banana, and both Shump and Prigioni feature underrated tags.  Even though Metta World Peace has an undoubtedly stylish NBA name, I’ve relegated “The Artest Formerly Known as Ron” to the bench since he kind of just gave it to himself.

4.) Denver Nuggets – Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Randy Foye (J. J. Hickson)

Notes: The symmetry in “JaVale McGee” is a treat to hear out loud, and the double capital letters in both his first and last names make it look great on the page, too.  Ty Lawson’s two-letter first name is undeniably cool, and “Timofey Mozgov” sounds like someone Steven Seagal would face off against in a cheesy action movie.  Also, this list has revealed my fondness for names of Italian origin, so naturally I had to include “Danilo Gallinari” in Denver’s starting five.  Saying that name aloud is a fun little workout for the tongue.

5.) Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo, Hedo Turkoglu, Maurice Harkless, Aaron Afflalo, Kyle O’Quinn (Tobias Harris)

Notes: The name “Victor Oladipo” is a priceless treasure, and I will fight anyone who tells me otherwise.  “Hedo Turkoglu” is a veteran cool name in this league, and I have to give props to anyone named “Tobias.”  Kendrick Lamar shouted out Aaron Afflalo on his song “Black Boy Fly,” and it was that cut that first drew my attention to Afflalo’s awe-inspiring name.  The alliteration factor is one thing, but saying it aloud evokes the image of a great phoenix rising from the ashes and spreading its wings.  It’s just beautiful.

6.) Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond, Chauncey Billups, Luigi Datome, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Stuckey (Charlie Villanueva)

Notes: It’s a common misconception that hyphenated last names are always fun and/or interesting, but that’s actually rarely the case.  As well as Michael Carter-Williams has played so far this year for the 76ers, his name is the equivalent of a late-period Terrance Malick movie: one long drag.  But if MCW is Malick, KCP is Tarantino; his name is an adventure, a heinous joyride of electric pulp.  My onomastic fetish for Italian names bumps “Luigi Datome” up a few notches, and “Rodney Stuckey” is a delightful throwback.  It sounds like an ABA name or something.

7.) Milwaukee Bucks – O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino (Ekpe Udoh)

Notes: I’m still not entirely sure how to pronounce Giannis’ last name, but it sure looks glorious on the page.  “Zaza” is one of the finer first names in the league, and I like to think of O.J. Mayo’s name as orange juice-flavored mayonnaise.  My bizarre affection toward Carlos Delfino’s name probably comes from its nostalgic association in my mind to the Nintendo GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine, the most underrated gem in the Super Mario canon.

8.) Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kent Bazemore, Festus Ezeli (Andrew Bogut)

Notes: The inclusion of Thompson in GSW’s starting five is solely based on the strength of his first name.  I’ve always liked the name “Clay,” and spelling it with a “K” is a small but inspired move.  It changes the whole tenor of the name without calling attention to itself as a creative alternate spelling (like in “Jrue Holiday”).  Everyone knows Iggy has a cool name, but I also want to give some shine to Kent Bazemore and Festus Ezeli for their underrated monikers.  As a side note, I just want to mention that whenever I see Andrew Bogut’s name on the page I always briefly read it as “Andrew Booger.”

9.) Chicago Bulls – Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Tony Snell (Kirk Hinrich)

Notes: Looking at this ranking again, I might have sold the Bulls a little short here.  Rose is a very dramatic last name, and I’ve always really appreciated the jaunty do-si-do of mouthing the name “Carlos Boozer.”  Deng and Noah’s names go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Tony Snell sounds like an oily bookie in a Scorsese flick, and Kirk Hinrich’s name is practically a palindrome.  I might have to re-think this whole situation.

10.) Washington Wizards – John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nenê, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza (Otto Porter Jr.)

Notes: Did you know Nenê’s name at birth was Maybyner Rodney Hilário?  That’s pretty legendary, but I’m still glad he went minimalist for his NBA tag.  The suprise addition of Gortat before the season hasn’t quite yielded the on-court results the Wiz were hoping for, but for the purposes of this list, that pickup couldn’t have been more crucial.  The strong two-syllable punch of “John Wall” is a great complement to the alliteration in Beal’s name.  And even though we haven’t really seen Otto Porter Jr. on the court in Washington, I’m giving him the sixth man designation because we all need more Ottos in our lives.

11.) Minnesota Timberwolves – Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved (Gorgui Dieng)

Notes: The appeal of the names “Ricky Rubio” and “Shabazz Muhammad” is obvious, but what I really want to highlight on this roster is the severe beauty of “Alexey Shved.”  Big ups to the T’Wolves for employing a Siberian fur trapper; I’m sure he feels right at home in the frigid Minnesota cold.   Saying “J.J. Barea” is equivalent to shooting off a verbal “J.J. Beretta,” and obviously I have to show Kevin the love for “Love”.  Solid squad here, for sure.